Former champion Andy Schleck will lead Radioshack-Leopard at the 100th Tour de France, which is due to start in Corsica on Saturday June 29.
The 2010 champion, from Luxembourg, missed last year’s Tour after fracturing his pelvis in a crash at the Criterium du Dauphine, but the 28-year-old returns to head the defending team classification winners this year.
On his return from injury, Schleck, whose brother Frank is currently serving a doping ban, initially struggled for form but the Luxembourgian team insist the three-time podium finisher will not be under pressure to perform at the Tour.
General manager Luca Guercilena said: “We are happy to see that Andy is back. Nobody in the team ever had doubts about his talent. Little by little he has come back to the level where we expect him [to be].
“The Tour de Suisse encouraged and convinced us to give him the role he deserves and to give him the opportunity to have dedicated riders surrounding and supporting him.
“Of course, we don’t put pressure on our champion. It would be unrealistic to expect a podium place. On the other hand, the lack of stress and pressure can be a positive stimulus to a brilliant performance.”
As previously announced, last year’s prologue winner Fabian Cancellara will not take part at this year’s Tour but Radioshack-Leopard will still back the younger Schleck brother with a vastly experienced squad.
Among them is veteran German all-rounder Jens Voigt, 41, who will be starting his 16th consecutive Tour – taking him to within one of George Hincapie’s starts record, which Australian Stuart O’Grady (Orica-GreenEDGE) is set to equal this year.
The two-time Tour stage winner also claimed stage five at this year’s Tour of California and will provide strong support for Schleck and Basque rider Haimar Zubeldia.
Zubeldia, 36, was sixth overall last year – the fourth top-ten finish of his career – and Guercilena believes the all-rounder could step up to lead the team in his 12th Tour should Schleck struggle.
“You can consider Haimar as our second weapon,” he said. “Haimar is always consistent and delivers his best.”
He added: “It was not an easy task to select these nine riders. Every professional rider wants to ride the Tour and we had more than nine riders in good shape, ready to tackle this 100th Tour de France.
“It was, for instance, a hard decision not to select champions like Gregory Rast and Stijn Devolder, but we made the choice in good conscience, taking into account the goals we want to reach in this Tour.”
German Andreas Kloden, twice a Tour runner-up, is included however after coming 11th overall last time out and achieving top-ten finishes at this year’s Tour of Belgium, Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice.
Belgian all-rounder Maxime Monfort, another top-20 finisher last year, is also selected for his sixth consecutive Tour, while compatriot Jan Bakelants, who claimed third overall at the Tour de Luxembourg, makes his Tour de France debut.
Luxembourg rider Laurent Didier, the mountains classification winner at the Tour du Haut Var, also makes his Tour de France debut and the team is completed by Frenchman Tony Gallopin and Markel Irizar of the Basque Country.
Tour de France 2013 – Radioshack-Leopard